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An essay by Sarah Dougher

The first time a stranger called me grandmother of my own child, I was in a midwestern airport, hauling my two-yearold to a connecting flight. I was purchasing a bottle of water; the baby was having a tantrum. I put her on the floor to let her shriek and flop around, as you sometimes have to do, and calmly made my purchase. The clerk, giving me a sororal smile, leaned over the counter, peered at my snotty creature, and said, “Grandchildren are a handful, that’s for sure. I’ve got four of my own!” I smiled and said, “Yep, a real handful!” Then I picked up my daughter, who arched her back like she was possessed and shrieked “NO!” again and again as we walked out.

The clerk’s misunderstanding of my relationship to my kid is one that will be repeated for the rest of my life, I’m fairly certain. This is one of the consequences of having my first child at forty-five, and my second at forty-nine.

You can be a grandma at thirty-eight. You can be a mom and a teenager. Saying that I have small children makes me seem younger to people. People have children during a wide age range, but our cultural conception of the correct age for a new mother is somewhere between twenty and forty. Someone might think I’m fifty-ish but when they see me breastfeeding, dial it back to forty-five. Because I’ve never been a younger mother, I can’t say what is different about being an older one. I can say that I did not seriously consider children until I was in my early thirties. I had the privilege of easy access to birth control, as well as to abortion had I needed it. Not having a child when I was younger allowed me to focus on the things I wanted to do then: I got a doctoral degree, for instance. I traveled, lived communally, and toured as a musician.

My initial plans for children with my then girlfriend were disrupted by a breast cancer diagnosis at thirty-five. Getting a form of cancer that doesn’t hurt, except when excised, has a different impact than do other, more sudden and exhilarating brushes with death. It exacerbated what felt impossible: that I would ever live long enough to parent children successfully in a loving partnership. Dependent on this same philandering partner ’s health insurance for treatment, my approach to mortality was shot through with tradeoffs; I stay with her and keep the insurance, look away when she fucks other people, drink myself to sleep and pretend I’ve had a healing night’s rest. Instead of compelling me to live each moment with a clear-eyed zest for life, I was a lackluster cancerbattler. My alcohol dependence increased as my friends and family tried to rally me from deep depression. My drunkenness was an inarticulate demand: “Recognize my suffering! See me!” But no one could see my cancer and my physical debilitation and drinking was read as a moral failing. I had radiation treatment on one cancerous breast, and five years of the estrogen-suppressant, tamoxifen. Eventually, I was in remission, and I quit drinking. By then I was forty.

My children are the result of a partnership I never thought I would be so lucky to have, with a man whose commitment to family matched my own. We determined we’d have children on our third date, when I was forty-one. By the spring of my fortysecond year, I was making notes in a book about “Clomid mood swings” and “Follistim,”—the drugs that stimulate follicles to produce multiple eggs per cycle. The reality is that even between forty-one and forty-two, your reproductive odds drop sharply, and your egg supply is low. We optimistically started with intrauterine injection, which basically just saves the sperm part of the trip to the fallopian tubes. After this failed, we ratcheted up quickly, to IVF, and my notes became more dire: “anxious,” “aching,” “weepy,” “overwhelmed,” “thirsty,” “dumb,” “headache-y,” “spaced-out,” “crampy,” “sleepy,” “fragile,” “gassy,” “tender,” “bloated,” “insomniac,” “crazy.” As unpleasant as this all was, it was less horrific than my life as a drunk cancer victim had been. When you do IVF, you think you are going to be the miracle person whose eggs just needed a little prodding. I learned I am no miracle person: after two IVF rounds, we decided to pay someone young for her eggs, a process gently mislabeled “donation.”

Through an agency, we chose a person whose family history did not include breast cancer, alcoholism, or mental illness. She looked sort of like us, northern Europeans, and her photographs demonstrated a penchant for dressing in costume— pirate lass, fortune-teller, clown. The reasons people value extremely good looking, high achieving egg donors seemed strange to me, but the whole thing was very strange so we thought we would choose someone who at least liked to have fun. We didn’t know why she wanted to get paid for undergoing a physically uncomfortable, time-consuming, and, in the scheme of things, not-that-lucrative process. Platitudes about helping others with the gift of life? Maybe to pay for community college? Or to buy the best fortune-telling costume of all time? This mysterious blonde person had a crucial part in making our family possible, but I know her just from blurry snapshots on the egg donation database. She could just as easily be that person with the baby crying the next time I board a plane.

I know that I am more patient and tolerant of both my own foibles and the shortcomings of others than I was when I was young, and this is a very useful trait as both a parent and as a person. I care a great deal less now about what others think of me, but care very deeply about the needs and opinions of my family. I’m more concerned with regular practices related to health and well-being, and prioritize this. I have very limited time to myself but that time is exceedingly well-spent.

How others gauge my fitness for parenting is really their concern based on their own biases. If they choose to look upon the choice as unfair to my children, who will eventually (as we all will) become parentless, they need only look to the experiences of people whose parents are already out of the picture because of fundamental disagreements, addictions, or tragic circumstances. Sometimes, for millions of reasons, parents and adult children don’t get along to the point of estrangement, and yet these people often thrive and make excellent parents themselves. How we lose and gain family is never ordinary.

Motherhood ushered in a sudden connection to other, much younger, women with kids. This was not something I had anticipated. I’m a college professor who works in public high schools teaching in a dualcredit program, so I am in regular contact with young people. This new, specific closeness I feel to younger moms in my classes is not something I verbalize to them; it is, however, something I try to support structurally. I don’t need to understand the details of their lives, but I want to use what small powers I have to give them options—I can be in touch by email when they can’t come in; I can lend them the school computer and encourage them to write about their experiences in the context of our class. I try to use my role as their teacher to help them value the work they are doing as moms, and to let them know I see that work, and I see them, too. I can’t forget the elation and relief in the face of a mom who sees her seventeen-year-old daughter graduate as she holds her daughter’s baby, all three generations younger than me. Maybe this identification is what the shop clerk felt when she treated me kindly at the airport.

Sometimes when I tell the story of the clerk in the airport, friends remark that I should have gotten angry for her assumption, “How rude!” they say. Other times when I tell this story, my friends will assure me that I don’t look at all like a grandmother. But what, really, does this look like after all?

I remind them that what happened in that exchange was only that I was pegged for what I am, an older woman. Hers was a verbalized example of the ways in which we all use visual, socialized cues to size each other up, and operate in the flow of received ideas of gender and role. To interrupt that to say, “No, I’m not her grandmother, I’m her mom!” would have rejected the kindness that the person thought she was offering. Do I have a responsibility to let the clerk know that older women can be excellent mothers? This must be proven only to my children. Do I have to represent, call her out on her assumptions about femininity or reproductive fitness? This would only cast unneeded doubt on the support she was trying to communicate, trite and pro forma as it was.

I choose to hold on to the kindness of this woman, not her misreading. Is it really on her that reproductive science is not cheaper and more widely accessible, or more common? Her fault, unloading Cosmo and Shape magazines all day, that she might have conventional assumptions about age, reproductive capacity, and vitality? That she might view my slightly androgynous, cardiganwearing, and greying form as a “grandma”?

I came to understand the airport incident as a consequence of my unique path: I will be misread; my experiences will be assumed, not seen, unknown. Contained within this path is an opportunity to experience deep empathy and connection. In that harried airport moment, when I put my child down on a dirty floor and let her scream and cry, making everyone uncomfortable, it didn’t matter what people thought about me or my role in my family. For her part, the clerk’s comments suggested to the other people (who were likely uncomfortable or irritated by us) that it is difficult to care for a screaming child, and that a screaming child is not out of the ordinary. She signaled that she knew this was a challenging situation for any person, and that she saw my work. Grandmother or not, I was seen.

Sarah Dougher is a writer, teacher, and musician, currently working in the University Studies program at Portland State University and writing short stories in the early mornings.

The Farm By Joanne Ramos
New York, NY; Random House 2019, 336 pp., $27.00, hardcover
Reviewed by Katherine Ouellette

Just as the publishing industry became fatigued by the onslaught of dystopian fiction brought on by the success of the Hunger Games franchise, titles like 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale eked their way back onto bestseller lists before sales exploded after the presidential election. The seemingly extremist views explored in these books were suddenly not as distant as white readers had previously perceived. But the circumstances that white readers have long considered as “dystopian” have often been realities for people of color. When faced with harmful political rhetoric that could affect white people personally, privileged readers (like myself) finally realized this was never a fictional phenomenon. The Farm by Joanne Ramos is firmly rooted in a contemporary setting, but the events that unfold could have easily been a primer for The Republic of Gilead.

The protagonist of The Farm, Jane, is not a heroine who reluctantly challenges a fascist regime, but a new mother who is struggling to support herself and her six-week old daughter Mali. She works for minimum wage and lives in dorm with her seventy-something-year-old cousin, Ate Evelyn, and half a dozen other Filipina immigrants like them. Since Jane can’t count on her cheating husband to contribute to childcare, Ate suggests a potentially lucrative opportunity at Golden Oaks as a surrogate. The financial bonuses granted to the surrogates—or “Hosts” as Golden Oaks calls them—for the successful completion of first trimester, second trimester, and delivery would be life-changing for Jane and Mali. And after Jane gets fired from two jobs within the span of a month, she doesn’t have many other choices for gainful employment.

The author alternates between the perspectives of Jane, Ate, Mae (the woman who runs Golden Oaks), and Reagan (a white Host). Ramos writes with equal authority over the voices of a desperate young mother, a no-nonsense nanny with a knack for securing loyalty from wealthy employers, a college-educated daughter of a Chinese businessman, and a white photographer wracked with guilt for living a privileged life. The story is made all the richer by having the motivations for each character laid out for the reader, instead of limiting the reader ’s understanding of Golden Oaks to Jane, who just wants to fly under the radar and get paid. Ramos describes their individual worldviews with striking precision, addressing unconscious taboos about class with such frankness that it forces the reader to reconcile with these unwritten social rules.

For example, when Ate gives Jane advice about nannying, she says the parents, “will tell you to call them ‘Cate and Ted,’ very American, very equal— but it is always ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am.’ They will tell you to ‘make yourself at home’—but they do not want you to make yourself at home! Because it is their home, not yours, and they are not your friends. They are your Clients. Only that.” This distinction between the Client’s purview and Jane’s foreshadows how far systemic inequality will be carried out.

The rhetoric used in The Farm is not dissimilar from what you might find in a corporate licensing agreement. Mae tells Jane that Golden Oaks wants her to, “understand fully what you’re committing to. Because once you’re impregnated—once there’s another human living inside you—it’s no longer just about you. There’s no going back.” Not only does this philosophy echo the concerning rhetoric of “life begins at conception,” but it also paints a sinister illustration of the class divide between the uber-rich and the working class. It’s made abundantly clear that Golden Oaks bestows preferential treatment towards the fetus over the Host’s own health because the fetuses belong to billionaires and the Hosts would never be able to afford lawyers to protest less-than-ideal working conditions. As another Host puts it, Golden Oaks is “a factory, and you’re the commodity.” (Or in another world, this is the Commander’s household and you’re the Handmaid.) Even though the Hosts theoretically sign this employment contract willingly, they have as few rights as the Handmaids who are forced into sexual slavery.

Similar to how Handmaids suddenly receive luxury treatment when they finally conceive, a repeat Host advises Jane that she will receive more lenient treatment from Golden Oaks about their rigorous schedules and limited family visits if Jane gets her Clients invested in her individual wellbeing. The key is to portray herself as a virtuous vessel for their unborn baby, as opposed to just someone who deserves a comfortable living wage. But Jane doesn’t get the opportunity to woo her Client like this, so she gets sucked into a factory-like system that effectively removes her bodily autonomy. Hosts receive focused diet plans, specialized exercise classes, and frequent doctor’s appointments—where the doctor talks to the Client over the phone about the fetus instead of the woman who is actually receiving the examination. (This draws an unexpected parallel to The Handmaid’s Tale, when the wives try to simulate the conception and the birthing experience while the Handmaid does the real work.) If that isn’t disconcerting enough, when the doctor discovers a lump on Reagan’s breast, she keeps Reagan in the dark about the potential risk. When the doctor is finally forced to acknowledge this health concern to Reagan, she tries to assure Reagan it’s nothing to worry about. Sensing something is amiss, Reagan tries to search for other symptoms of Hodgkin’s lymphoma on one of the Golden Oaks computers, only to find that term is blocked by the network.

If Golden Oaks is a factory and the Hosts are the commodity, the commodification of the female body is facilitated by censorship and constant surveillance, much like 1984. Hosts are forced to live on the premises for ten months—away from home and loved ones without any cell phone service or WiFi. Reagan brings her camera to take photos of the lush Hudson Valley surroundings, but that’s also confiscated upon arrival. Hosts can make video calls home during the scheduled technology room hours, so long as the slow connection doesn’t freeze, and Hosts don’t mind a group of other women at their own computers overhearing their conversations.

The Hosts don’t suspect foul play at first, but the reader sees through Mae’s eyes that every moment of the Host’s life is monitored by a surveillance system appropriately called the Panopticon. If a Host has an emotional outburst or appears to get too chummy with known troublemakers, the Golden Oaks staff employ techniques to convince the Host to “behave optimally” of her own accord, whether that’s through schedule changes or subtle emotional blackmail. Mae dangles visits with Jane’s daughter as a reward for her ideal behavior, and the visits are taken away just as quickly as a punishment for Jane, which makes a reader wonder if the visits were ever really going to happen. And Reagan can’t research for herself if she’s developing a life-threatening condition because treatment would be harmful to the fetus.

Later, this lack of consideration for the Host’s health is extended to grim extremes. When one of the fetuses shows signs of trisomy and therefore presents a risk of Down syndrome, the Client chooses to have the fetus aborted. Reagan is horrified about how swiftly Golden Oaks terminates an otherwise healthy pregnancy without consulting the affected Host, but other Hosts expected nothing less. “‘Do you understand: they forced Anya to abort... It’s a complete violation—’ ‘Not of the contract.’” Reagan comes from a family of privilege, so she never experienced catering to the will of a rich employer before. But by this point, the reader has practically received an instruction manual (via Ate’s voice) for how working class women—often women of color—have to appear non-threatening to mothers who don’t want to admit caring for their own child is difficult. Women of color have long been nannies and wet nurses for white children for hundreds of years. Becoming the surrogate for upper class women who want to control everything—and up until that point, have succeeded in controlling everything due to their wealth—is the next logical step. They don’t have a say in how a Client runs their household or their pregnancy, even if the pregnancy is being carried out by someone else.

Even though most of the Hosts are women of color, some Clients “are willing to pay a premium for Hosts whom they find pretty, or ‘well-spoken,’ or ‘kind,’ or ‘wise,’ or even: educated,” which is code for: white. As Ramos puts it, “Most Clients cannot help but feel that the Host they choose is not only a repository for their soon-to-be-baby but an emblem of the lofty expectations they have for the being to be implanted inside,” even though the Hosts are not contributing their DNA to the fetus. As a college educated white woman, Reagan is considered a “premium” Host, but she does want to be hired for the sake of a Client’s vanity. She has aspirations to carry for a woman who had biological difficulties conceiving a child for herself. Because Reagan the commodity is more profitable than the Filipina and Caribbean Hosts, Mae is willing to appease Reagan and hires a stand-in client to make Reagan think her position was more meaningful, and therefore behave more optimally.

The Farm ultimately centers around Jane’s fierce desire to protect and provide for her daughter, though it’s intriguing to contrast her experience with Reagan’s rude awakening to her performative altruism in a capitalist structure. (After all, Reagan still needs and accepts her salary as a Host.) Jane astutely observes that “people are not as free as Reagan thinks they are,” which is especially obvious when we also compare Jane’s journey to that of Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale, who is assumed to be white. Jane doesn’t have her credit cards and bank accounts stripped from her name to remove her financial agency and independence, she barely had any savings to begin with. Mali isn’t kidnapped from Jane to remove her from her own family obligations, she is safely under the care of Ate while Jane is at Golden Oaks—but Jane’s burning questions about Mali’s health and safety provide just as strong emotional tension as Offred’s concerns about her own daughter. Jane isn’t raped in order to provide an heir to a powerful family, but she is still under lock and key and surveillance of an isolated household. The Farm isn’t a dystopia, it simply highlights the very real desperation of the working class versus the luxurious accommodations and “experiences” catered to the ultra-wealthy.

Katherine Ouellette is a freelance writer with bylines at Bustle, The Hippo, and Women’s Review of Books. She lives in Boston, MA.

No Walls and the Recurring Dream: A Memoir By Ani DiFranco
New York, NY; Viking, 2019, 298 pp., $28.00, hardcover
Reviewed by Hannah Wallace

When I first heard Ani DiFranco sing about her abortion at a small auditorium in the Pioneer Valley during the spring of 1992, I felt as if my head would explode. A freshman at Mount Holyoke, I had never had an abortion, but I’d had several close calls (who hadn’t?). The honesty with which she wrote about her experience in “Lost Woman Song”—how she linked it to the anti-abortion politics that were (and still are) so pervasive in parts of this country—was brave and righteous. My friend Grace and I were hooked. After that, we saw DiFranco wherever we could, driving to Boston or New York to see her perform in bigger, flashier venues. We were high on her lyrics—which were as urgent, feminist, sexy, and independent as (we hoped) we were.

For many budding feminists in the early 1990s, Difranco’s lyrics were more than just songs. They were a roadmap for how we wanted to live our lives—or, in some cases, affirmation for how we were already living. Her music was powerful, addictive—watching her on stage produced feelings of euphoria the likes of which I haven’t experienced often in my forty-five years. Her small size—she stood five foot two—belied her power as a singer and a performer. She belted out her songs; she attacked her acoustic guitar, playing percussively and loud and used fake nails reinforced with electrical tape instead of a guitar pick. Her sound was exciting, but her lyrics were electrifying. DiFranco sang about topics no one else our age dared to speak about: abortion (“Lost Woman Song,” “Tiptoe,” “Hello Birmingham”), periods (“Blood in the Boardroom,” “My IQ”), sexual assault (Gratitude), atheism (What if No One’s Watching), and women who settle (“The Slant,” “Fixing her Hair,” “Worthy,” etc.). And, like any self-respecting folksinger, she sang about heartache, love, and sex—sometimes all in the same song. Though on the surface DiFranco came across as angry and provocative (especially to her male listeners), her songs were also poetic, reflective, and downright seductive. “Overlap,” a brooding song on Out of Range, starts,

I search your profile / For a translation
I study the conversation / Like a map
‘cuz I know there is strength in the differences
between us
and I know there is comfort where we overlap

Because she was so prolific—producing, on average, one new album each year—we fans never had to grow tired of what DiFranco had to offer. First there was her eponymous album (I still have the worn-out cassette version) then—in quick succession—Not So Soft (1991), Imperfectly (1992), Puddle Dive (1993), Like I Said (1993), Out of Range (1994), and Not a Pretty Girl (1995). We haven’t even gotten to Dilate—which may be my favorite of her albums, full of righteous anger—or Little Plastic Castles.

DiFranco’s fans were legendary for their intense identification with her and her music. When I took my male cousin with me to see her perform at New York City’s Irving Plaza in the late 1990s, he marveled at how her audience knew all the words to all her songs. “That doesn’t happen at a Liz Phair concert,” he said. In her new memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream, she expresses gratitude to these very same ardent fans:

Even in deepest obscurity, I was blessed with listeners who supported and affirmed my existence in the way that I so craved, but also, right from the beginning, I was challenged by their high demands. The intensity in me, naturally found its likeness in the world.

Ani (pronounced “AH-nee”) DiFranco was born Angela DiFranco in Buffalo, New York, in 1970. Her father was the first American-born son of an Italian family from Campobasso (near Naples), and her mother, who studied architecture, was Canadian. In the memoir DiFranco provides an indelible image of a kid who embraced being different from an early age.

I was the wildly expressive girl with the rainbow socks pulled up over my overalls and pigtails in my hair. A bright smiling clown. I was my wildly expressive mother’s understudy and I earned the label “weird” from the other kids.

DiFranco expressed her independence from a young age. At eight or so (she doesn’t give an exact age), she read about a horse camp in the back of the Sunday New York Times and negotiated with her parents to pay half. (She earned the remaining half by selling pressed-flower greeting cards, babysitting, and busking.) At age 15, she became an emancipated minor, renting a room from a Lebanese woman in Buffalo, while gigging around town with Michael Meldrum, her first musical mentor. (She relied on her dad’s Social Security check to pay rent, but later got a job waiting tables at a Greek diner.) In high school, she told the principal that if he didn’t allow her to graduate in three years (still squeezing in all her needed credits), she’d quit and get a GED. He assented, as long as she promised to be discreet. “It was a theme that was just starting to appear in my life: Okay, I will let you be the exception, just don’t tell anyone,” she writes. “I didn’t know it at the time, but this theme was to carry all the way through to my eventual relationship with the music industry and its gatekeepers.” She recorded her first demo tape in 1990, the same year she founded Righteous Babe Records, her label. She was not yet twenty years old.

She moved to New York and attended the New School in Greenwich Village, studying poetry with poet/musician Sekou Sundiata, a lasting influence on her writing. She also took Feminism 101, where she read Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Alice Walker, Adrienne Rich, Ntozake Shange, and Carol Gilligan. “I knew it right away: I am a part of the feminist continuum. I am entering myself,” writes DiFranco of that education. This class was also where she re-discovered the poetry of Lucille Clifton, whose “lost baby poem,” about having an illegal abortion, helped her put words to her own abortion. Difranco’s Lost Woman Song is dedicated to Clifton and she’d often recite “lost baby poem” on stage as an invocation before singing her own.

DiFranco’s memoir is as bold as her songwriting. In straightforward, vivid prose, we learn about her brother’s mental illness, the circumstances surrounding her two abortions, and details about past lovers. She opens one early paragraph with this revelation: “I’m not sure if this is typical but I, personally, had seen a lot of penises by the time I was ten.” Men exposing themselves to young girls “seemed like the kind of thing that just happens, like thunder, to make you suddenly jump out of your skin.” She and her friend Ingeri develop a sixth sense for flashers and learned how to avoid them—an experience which is perfectly conveyed as both horrifying and utterly normal.

On the question of musical influences, DiFranco reveals that she’s always been “somewhat sincerely stumped.” “For one thing, who stops and examines themselves in the middle of a journey?,” she asks, quite wisely. But I enjoyed learning that the man she refers to only as “First Boyfriend” exposed her to Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell, “and a host of other heroes of the hippie cosmos.” Joan Armatrading and British singer/songwriter John Martyn got deeply under her skin, especially Martyn’s record, Solid Air. “I believe his guitar playing resides deep inside mine and his circular, jazz-inflected grooves wove their way slowly into my DNA,” DiFranco writes. She also met and listened to Suzanne Vega (“something about her presence provided me with subliminal proof of my own difference”) and absorbed John Fahey and the Beatles. Later, she would discover jazz (coincidentally around the same time she discovered cannabis)—specifically Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, and Betty Carter—and groove music and West African musicians like Baaba Maal, Mansour Seck, and Farka Touré. Even Prince, who she eventually meets while on tour with saxophonist Maceo Parker, is an influence. (I’ll never forget DiFranco’s rapturous cover of When Doves Cry at a concert in Edmonton, Canada.)

Meanwhile, the memorable backstory to her first abortion is a tender reminder of how easy it is to get pregnant—even when you’re educated and responsible and trying so hard not to. She begins by recounting her pre-sex preparations:

I must have been the only teenage virgin to ever walk into the Buffalo Planned Parenthood to properly plan for having her first run-in with a penis because I was an instant celebrity. The nurse practitioner took me around the whole office and introduced me to everyone. They all acted proud of me and it felt like I was giving them hope. Maybe some of the educational efforts they had been putting forth were having an effect on society. Maybe the world was changing for young women.

DiFranco leaves with a prescription for the pill and general approbation, but “in those days the pill was like a hormonal sledgehammer” and she feels dizzy every time she stands up. Predictably, she stops taking it and, well— “Instantly I was pregnant,” she writes.

“Why, why would you stop taking it?” the nurse asked me as I cried in her office. “I don’t know,” I whimpered, “I just made a mistake.”

In the end, severely depressed, she opts for an abortion—“This was a solvable problem, not the end of my life”—and returns to writing poems and songs, playing her guitar, and becoming the significant musician we know her as today. Later in the book, after a profound philosophical disquisition about when life starts, and the admission that she’s happily carried two children to term, DiFranco re-affirms a belief in the right to abortion. “Every situation is unique and every woman is right when she decides what is right for herself,” she writes. “Reproductive freedom should be understood as a civil right.”

Her fan base loved her bold declarations about abortion; her complexity was less tolerated. As DiFranco described in her early (somewhat meteoric) rise, she grappled with the power of her iconography and what she represents to her mainly young and female fans. When she fell in love with and later married Goat (her male sound engineer), for example, a certain portion of her vocal dyke fans felt betrayed—and let her know. Though she now concedes that the media probably gave the conflict outsized attention, DiFranco was hurt by the relentlessness of the criticism. In the memoir, she sums it up:

There had really been no more backlash against my marriage than there had been to every other thing I’d ever done but, after a certain number of repetitions, I doubted even the weight of my own experience.

Even though DiFranco writes that she finds it insulting that someone might ask her who a song is about, one of the great joys of reading her memoir is hearing echoes of her lyrics in the stories she shares. “My parents were patriotic about paying taxes and taught me all of what you get for it in America,” she writes in the first chapter. “They not only voted, but my mother volunteered her time to local candidates she believed in. I sat with her stuffing envelopes and licking stamps in circles of laughing women and I went canvassing door to door holding onto her hand” (a story I’d heard in “Paradigm,” from her album Knuckle Down). I’d always wondered about a lyric from “Cradle and All”—and now I know its origins: the Trico plant she refers to in the song (which moved to Mexico) is a windshield wiper factory, based in Buffalo. Later she talks about the end of her relationship with First Boyfriend, and how his resistance to breaking up included punching things. “There were holes in the plasterboard right next to where my head had been,” she writes, an image that devoted fans will remember from Out of Range. Sometimes, she even tells us who she wrote a song about. For instance, “If He Tries Anything” was about her Mexican road trip with Shawnee.

No Walls and the Recurring Dream is a delightfully picaresque memoir, but there are some glaring omissions. For one thing, though the book is chronological (for the most part), she’s not consistent about giving dates. Also, DiFranco only glancingly mentions her two children—Petah and Dante. (And we never learn who their father is, or if he’s still her partner.) I didn’t expect them to be the centerpiece of this story, but I was curious—as I assume many of her fans are—to hear whether motherhood has changed her priorities and informed her songwriting and activism.

As a parent of a teenage girl, I was eager to know how she navigates the twin issues of screen time and sugar: is she like her dad, who said, “Let them eat a box of donuts! They will get sick and throw up and they will learn!,” or like her more structured mom? And how does an artist like DiFranco encourage the kind of boredom that leads to hours of creative exploration, the kind of solitude that she herself knew well as a teen, but that few children experience these days due to the siren song of social media, video games, and Netflix? I’m afraid we’ll never know, although there is one clue to her parental prerogatives. On page 167, after describing the Mexican adventure with her friendturned- lover Shawnee, she does give a word of advice to her daughter: “It’s all okay but the hitchhiking. That shit’s just too dangerous.”

In her final pages, she divulges that her children have always been jealous of her music. “Both my kids looked instantly upon my guitar as the enemy,” she writes. “Goddess forbid Mommy should start playing and get that faraway look in her eyes … If I am in the same city with them, and they are awake, songwriting is forbidden. It would be like taking air out of their lungs.” Other than that hint, DiFranco doesn’t reveal much of anything that happened in her life after 2001—including the nine albums she’s produced since then. DiFranco writes,

You’ll have to forgive me. I only ever intended this book to be the “making of” story. I probably should’ve warned you at the onset. The remake is a story that is still writing itself, right now. A story so much in motion that words couldn’t even begin to nail it down. But rest assured, the greatest happiness, fulfillment, and accomplishments of the girl in this book are still ahead of her.

The inside dope of DiFranco’s life remains hers to reveal to her fans, or not. Her honesty, it’s clear, still shines brightest in her songs—which continue to evolve, as she does.

Hannah Wallace is a freelance journalist who writes primarily about food, health, and sustainable agriculture. Whenever she gets the chance, she also writes about strong women—be they activists, artists, entrepreneurs, winemakers, or chefs.

Please Read This Leaflet Carefully By Karen Havelin
New York, NY: Dottir Press, 2019, 280 pp., $16.95, paperback
Reviewed by Kira von Eichel

We live in a noisy time. The noise of culture, politics, identity—and that particularly noisy place where they all intersect. It’s the era of voices once silenced being heard—shouted from rooftops, celebrated and liberated. Women, people of color, LGBTQ, and survivors of violence, sexual or otherwise, are for the first time speaking and writing about their experiences. Inherent to narratives of suppressed voices is pain. The pain is at the hands of an oppressor or a predator, either individual or a system or group, and clearly villainous. The best of these narratives can carry us, their readers, into, through and, finally, to triumph over that pain. Our hearts ache and soar alongside of a hero/heroine’s journey, as we align ourselves with them and revel in their successes. It feels good.

Karen Havelin’s debut novel Read This Leaflet Carefully is a different beast altogether, but no less potent. It is quiet and its transcendence comes not from the triumph over the villain, but from something else, something that challenges us to bravery in the face of no clear end. We are dropped into the life of a woman in her early thirties, Laura Fjellstad, who has long suffered from allergies to almost everything and, since her late teens, chronic pain from extreme endometriosis (a condition wherein the lining of the uterus spills out and creates a web of painful scar tissue throughout the pelvic cavity and sometimes beyond, resulting in everything from gastrointestinal issues to pain throughout the body to infertility). In this story, the villain is a lifetime of illness and pain—invisible to the outside world, as the body attacks itself from the inside. There is no visible handicap or assailant, save for moments when pain becomes unbearable and results in collapse. Internally, though, it is crashing noises and blinding white hot flashes. Externally, it’s a life of “grin and bear it” and being rewarded for not taking up space, not being a victim. The great accomplishment of this book is how it navigates what is created by the friction between the two.

The character of Laura is perfectly rendered in Havelin’s steady, unflinching prose as a real human being, simmering with rage at not being seen or heard or wanted as she is. Chronic pain is not unlike mental health in that it can elicit judgment and fatigue, even from the most loving and well intentioned among us. Society rewards the noble sufferer. The afflicted is dependent on everyone: doctors, family, friends, even strangers on a subway train. Havelin deftly navigates the murky waters of what the true voice of chronic physical pain is, and moreover, what simply being human and loving is. There’s a thrilling ferocity to this character. She simply is. She is brave, she is afraid, she is petty, she is resentful, and she is noble. About her divorce, Laura says,

The failure of our marriage hinged on him giving in to the temptation of secretly believing my illness was my fault. That there was some abstract, heroic, grand gesture to be performed, but I refused to do it.

That is at the crux of this story. Who is allowed to call herself brave, who is a victim and how should she behave to be deserving of love, pity, and empathy?

The novel moves back in time through Laura’s life, and through Laura’s body, from 2016, when she is a single mother of a toddler in New York City, all the way to 1995, at which point she is an underweight but strong fourteen-year-old figure skater in Bergen, Norway, beset by deadly allergies and illness since infancy. The narrative device is particularly effective—and poignant—because the reader becomes omniscient; we know what happens, what young Laura has ahead of her, as we move back in time. We know what each decision will result in, and we ache or rejoice all the more for it. The book is interspersed with passages from a book about figure skating and as we travel back in time with Laura we learn that she was once a competitive skater. That her brain had such control and symmetry with her body, that she could train and then will a form of perfection on the ice. Her body was once hers, it once obeyed her. We first meet Laura as a New Yorker, a European runaway from the shackles of being the family member who is sick and must be cared for, and the attendant guilt. In America, she is not simply the patient. She is the graduate, the mother, the writer; she has movement, hope, love, marriage (then divorce) to a man possessed with what she calls “rude health.” Laura embraces New York because New York is not afraid of hurting her. It’s refreshing. In New York there’s a freedom to the rough anonymity and the shoddy healthcare.

It turns out that the rest of the world is more like me than it’s like Norway. I’m more at home around people whose lives seem as hopeless and disrupted as mine does. My long list of allergies, which made me a freak growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, barely raises an eyebrow in New York City.

We are in Laura’s body from the moment we first see her in the gynecologist’s office, legs in stirrups. The prose is not heavy handed, but simply suffused with the physicality of the experience, familiar to any woman who has endured the necessary prodding and awkward conversation over paper draped across the knees. Havelin writes, about the female body, “there are so many things that swell, ache, cramp and drop.” That body remains a mysterious inner landscape in this culture, understood by some, but only partially, especially when it comes to pain, allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities. Women occupy a strange no-woman’s-land of intolerance and ridicule on one end and pious judgment on the other. Things like the wellness website GOOP and its like have arisen, in large part, to address the murky hinterlands of pain that describe much of women’s experience. They explore alternative treatments to ill-researched and puzzling afflictions because women’s health concerns have long been ignored or easily dismissed as based in mental illness. Women have been trained, as Laura has, to “behave” with doctors and accept it when they’re told it’s nothing. At age 25, before Laura is finally diagnosed with endometriosis, her doctor treats her for depression and psychosomatic stomach issues.

In real life, endometriosis itself has only recently been identified and treated as a real condition. Lena Dunham has very publicly written of having a hysterectomy as a long-shot solution to the pain of her own endometriosis. On the other extreme, current, earnest, wellness fascism asks, have you done enough acupuncture and steamed your vagina as well as invested in extremely rare mushroom potion and organic biodynamic kale? Laura is conscientious in her care for herself, availing herself of the laundry list of alternative modalities alongside of the regular doctor ’s visits. Meditation, acupuncture, yoga, therapy, the list goes on. There is a sense, though, throughout the novel, that she is to blame no matter what.

As the story progresses (or retrogresses) we travel through the landscape of pain and love and where Laura falls on that spectrum. We meet lovers—men and women—family, friends, all of whom do their best in love and care and still casually humiliate Laura with asides and judgments. Perhaps most bittersweet and painful is the effect on love. Love will always be a hurdle for those who have to juggle need with being perceived as too needy. Either the lover or the loved will push away, disengage. Laura is left by lovers. But then, Laura also rejects the man who does stand by her side, who will take care of her. As we move back in time we find out that she saw herself as freeing him from that role of caretaker. Laura, like anyone, wants to be loved as she is, taken care of, but also to be free. The shame of illness and its effects are explored with generosity here: the, to put it bluntly, stupid, stupid, sad choices we make around shame. The stupid things people say. The stupid decisions to leave a loved one, to “free” him from caring, only to realize years later, that that may not have been the kind thing. There is a beautiful muscular physicality to the book, pulsing through cities and bodies and between characters. Some of the book’s best moments are when Havelin carries us into Laura, describing the sensations of walking, holding a child, having sex, being poked and prodded. There is something of a fever dream to it. It’s almost as if the plot is beside the point. It enhances the science fiction-like quality of pain, how it takes over the body, how it renders a woman helpless when she defiantly does not wish to be helpless, and how it is invisible. (Sigourney Weaver in Alien came to mind reading this book, in a good way.)

Havelin writes:

Perhaps I would have a better life if I could manufacture more meaning from it all. Through illness, you mostly just get screwed. You lose so much time, putting in full days of misery and there is really no end to how bad it can get. Time spent suffering didn’t teach me anything I wanted to learn. But perhaps as time passes, it’s possible to learn not to blame yourself. Life is hard enough. Take what is offered, because it might not always be around. You can’t be harder and harder, stronger and stronger, more and more disciplined until you compress into a diamond. People aren’t mineral or metal. They are soft flesh, where love and pain echo through the body. Sometimes you have to ease up, to let go. You never know what will be able to help you. Compassion and gentleness are also endless. There are limitless possibilities inside other people. They could possibly say something other than what you expected.

Although there is a very palpable lack of silver lining to the pain, there is still hope to be found in these pages. The story is bookended by Laura figure skating, first as a grown woman and then as a teenager with everything ahead of her. It is her strength, her sense of control over her body and how she finds beauty in her body. We know when we read the final part, set in 1995, what the young teenager will experience and we know it will be awful. But we also know that this character is triumphant in her way. That even with all the loss, she will love and be loved. She will find joy in being clung to and needed by her own child. It’s a story that not only gives voice to the invisible specter of constant physical pain, but it also challenges our notions of what constitutes happy endings and how meandering and messy the whole picture can be, with joy and pain interwoven. This book is ultimately not simply a view into chronic pain; it is also a close-up of how we love. How we see ourselves in the eyes and actions of those we love, and how we negotiate the freedom to take up the space we deserve. Of what could have been and how we wrestle with what is.

Kira von Eichel is a writer in Brooklyn.

How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide By Crystal M. Fleming
Boston, MA; Beacon Press, 2018, 230 pp., $23.95, hardcover
Reviewed by Anastasia Higginbotham

For the last six months, I have been on a book tour for a children’s picture book I wrote and illustrated about whiteness and abolishing white supremacy. I always read the book the same way, but my talks before and after are completely different on account of all of the different points of entry to any discussion of racism—its causes and its solutions.

Take adult audiences: With the exception of spaces held by a majority of Black adults, I could never assume a shared understanding about what racism is or even a consensus that it exists. Though I am rarely challenged in spaces with a majority of white adults, I don’t dare take the silence in those rooms as agreement or alignment with Black Liberation. I focus on the ones nodding, with flushed faces and soft eyes. They are getting—or, at least, feeling—something. I cannot guess at the rest. Children’s audiences tend to be different. At a library event in Sonoma County with a class of second graders where almost all of the children were Brown, fluent in Spanish, and studying English, I wondered how they’d make sense of a book about whiteness. Their teacher later reported that during the art activity, she overheard students asking each other, “Are we white?” “I don’t know—are you?” “Am I?”

At the Henry Ford Academy of Creative Studies High School in Detroit, which has a majority African American student population, the aspect of my book that drew the most curiosity was that a “Caucasian” person cared. I noted their use of “Caucasian” to replace my use of the word “white” and sensed, in the careful way students used it with me, that it was a more respectful alternative to a word they, fairly, associated with ignorance, cruelty, and indifference to the lives of Black people. I wonder how we will ever get on the same page when we have never read, let alone lived, the same story?

Dr. Crystal M. Fleming wondered likewise and wrote a book for these times. How To Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide speaks into the chasms that persist between those who experience racism and anti- Blackness in a bodily, generational, encompassing way (as many Black people do) and those who may not know a single freaking thing about it (as my target audience of young white children and many of their adults do not).

Fleming, who identifies as a queer, bisexual, Black woman, begins with the “The Origins of Racial Stupidity”—her own. “Despite being a child of the 1960s and ’70s, and living through the civil rights and Black Power eras,” writes Fleming, “Mom never spoke to me about discrimination or desegregation or anything related to oppression, really—at least, not until I began formally studying these matters in graduate school.” This was a choice on her mother’s part to shield her daughter from the damaging effects of negative stereotyping in childhood. “I had no fucking idea that we in the United States live in a racist (and sexist and classist) society until I was a full-grown adult.” Her own process of becoming less stupid about race makes Fleming an ideal guide for those of us on that path, especially those of us cursing a blue streak along that path. Today, Fleming is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Africana Studies and Associate Faculty in Gender and Sexuality Studies at SUNY Stony Brook. She earned her Ph.D. and master’s at Harvard and her first book explored white supremacy in France.

She calls race “a fundamentally stupid idea” and “inherently ridiculous,” as do I, even in the presence of children as young as two and three years old— which is the age when kids of every race and skin tone have been observed expressing the racist bias that has already invaded their soft, small bodies. This perpetuation of racial stupidity across centuries involves “the misrepresentation, minimization, denial, and justification of racial domination.” It’s no accident that we grow up deluded into believing that kindness and hope will someday change the world. Our ignorance and magical thinking serve to keep oppressive structures in place.

“Much of the racial stupidity we encounter in everyday life derives from the fact that people think of racism as individual prejudice rather than a broader system and structure of power,” writes Fleming. While we are all immersed in stereotypes about social groups, “we do not all occupy the same position in the racial order.”

Case in point: Fleming’s own experience of being shielded from racist injustice in childhood bears a lot in common with a white child raised with no education in the catastrophe of systemic racism—yet the different manifestation of that ignorance is everything. When you’re Black and your mom protected you from knowing too much too soon, you go along not realizing the ways that white supremacy is impacting you. In the author’s case, she came to see that white supremacy propped her up as a model minority, exceptional, better than, separate—devastatingly so, as this severed her from her own intuition, authority, community, and ancestry.

When you’re white and don’t know what that means in terms of a personal, cultural, and national identity built on the lie of liberty and justice for all, you go along unaware of the innumerable ways you’ve been weaponized to advance white supremacy. “The costs of taking a superficial approach to addressing racism are quite high,” writes Fleming, “—and fall squarely on the shoulders of people of color.”

How we feel about racism is practically irrelevant. We can ignore it, deny it, despise it, defend it—none of this makes any difference in the lives of the people directly impacted. But until we—all of us—activate ourselves to expose and reckon with white supremacy where it’s rooted in our minds and bodies, in our intimate relationships, in what we read and who we listen to, and in the spaces where we bank, work, pray, earn degrees, and do yoga, this vile machine of destruction, theft, and incarceration will keep purring along, 100 percent by design. Our ignorance didn’t create this system, but its maintenance does depend on it.

This is the kind of book I want to download directly into my brain, to cure my own ignorance about how white supremacy is ingrained into every facet of American life. Fleming’s research and analysis tracks how racist injustice is maintained in media, education, and our deeply racist political system, among conservatives and liberals alike.

I’d like to take a quiz on how Fleming’s Gaslighting Fallacy of White Supremacy differs from her Whites-Only Fallacy and her Black Supremacy Unicorn Fallacy. And I want to memorize whole paragraphs like this one, so I never forget how strong the conditioning is to fail to see our complicity:

Americans have been socialized to look on the bright side despite centuries of colonial and racial violence, torture, and the oppression of minorities. Our problem is not and has never been overreacting to racial terror. Our problem is the hegemony of under-reaction, denial, minimization. Ours is a society that has always socialized white folks to live in the midst of racial oppression but go on with their lives like normal. At every turn, those who oppose white supremacy have been met with denial, violence, “race card” accusations, or magnificent claims about progress. It seems that in the minds of many white liberals, we should all be celebrating the fact that most of us are not physically in chains. White supremacy wants you to look at four hundred years of uninterrupted racial terror and conclude “Things aren’t so bad.”

Her chapter called “Listen to Black Women” aligns with my own process of becoming less stupid about race, as my activism was remade in every way by internalizing and crediting the voices of Black women. She highlights the “intersectional sensibility” of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, whose leadership “explicitly brings the problems of antiblackness and state violence into dialogue with the marginalization of queer lives and trans lives.” This “sophistication and complexity” draws together the “radical coalitions” that will shift the culture. The chapter “Interracial Love 101” emphasizes the “continuous commitment to unlearn” that is vital to our building actual intimacy across racial bounds. “What we need, quite desperately,” writes Fleming, “is the willingness to cultivate revolutionary love, grounded in knowledge, compassion, courage, and collective action.” Two grueling chapters on Obama and Trump offer plenty of incentive to shed illusions about our current terrible mess and how far we are from getting through it.

In the “Fake Racial News” chapter, Fleming holds mainstream media to the fire: “When it comes to the fine art of not giving a fuck about black people and other people of color, the New York Times really is in a league of its own.” This claim, as with all the others, is backed up with research and egregious examples of this newspaper and other widely respected news sources, including the New Yorker, “providing a platform for white nationalists and presenting white supremacy as ‘just another side.’” Each example offers searing proof of just how far white supremacy, and only white supremacy, has progressed in this country. The only way we will halt its momentum is by catching it in the act—and that means knowing its ways: where it lives (in us) and how it moves (relentlessly). This is something we haven’t tried before as a collective. Drop all defensiveness, abandon hope, and as DeRay Mckesson says: “Watch whiteness work.” Two more things we haven’t yet tried en masse, which Fleming also mentions throughout the book: the value of a mindfulness, meditative, and spiritual practice to heal trauma, prevent burnout, and keep the mind-spirit-body connection flowing, and the urgency to get this information to young people so they grow up wiser and in touch with their own power, responsibility, and collective potential.

Among other things, that means bursting white kids’ bubbles, quick—the one that so many adults who benefit from whiteness like to believe gradually dissolves as grown-up realities (such as Blackness and the truth about Thanksgiving) can’t be kept out any longer.

Every time a white parent laments that a book like mine will end their child’s innocence (the way a book like Fleming’s will end theirs), I remind them that they, and we, and I, and you were all born into a system that has set up white children to be anything but innocent. At best, white kids can expect to become accidental oppressors, enriched even as they are de-souled.

So long as we offer white children no choice but to advance white supremacy actively or passively, we leave the entire burden of navigating, dismantling, and staying alive within white supremacy on the shoulders of Black and Brown children. That right there is white supremacy at work. Or rather, that is white supremacy pouring itself a pitcher of martinis at 5 pm, after another successful century of work.

We cannot afford to be that stupid. In fact, we never could.

Anastasia Higginbotham is the creator of the Ordinary Terrible Things series of children’s books, which includes Divorce Is the Worst and Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness.

Territory of Light By Yuko Tsushima
New York, NY; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019, 192 pp, $24.00, hardcover
Reviewed by Domenica Ruta

A single mother moves with her young daughter into a new apartment suffused with light, but it is in the vacant apartment downstairs where she lurks in the middle of the night that her heart finds fleeting peace. In this transcendent novel by the late Yuko Tsushima, vacancies both real and symbolic become the space where human emotions not permitted to exist elsewhere are cast and poorly contained. The top-floor apartment, with its blood red floors, abundant windows, and symbolic promise of renewal, is at once a physical incarnation of a desperate woman’s direst hopes and fears.

Set in 1970s Tokyo, Territory of Light is ostensibly based on the author’s lived experience. Tsushima never names the female protagonist, leaving her to be known only in terms of the husband who abandoned her, Fujino. She works as an archivist at a radio library. Her husband, a fickle aspiring actor and producer, urges his castoff wife to move in with her widowed mother, but a combination of pride and shame make this option out of the question for her. Her first steps toward independence are tenuous, as she relies on her husband to help find a new home for her and their daughter. “I was enjoying the feeling of being swept along by a man … All I had to do was follow his instruction.” But the comfort of their looking together becomes farce as they tour apartments that are increasingly more expensive and untenable. Just then, an auspicious apartment on the fourth floor of an unremarkable office building becomes available.

“Tsushima imbues even a Sunday walk in the park with the dark specter of doom, creating a tension richly and deftly layered onto the ordinary struggle of a single mother.”

Territory of Light is a story of floods and fires, bedwetting and vomit, a story composed of elements both earthly and ethereal. A small leak somewhere in her new building becomes a flood on the floors below, and she is unfairly held responsible. Another single mother she meets in the park is the cause of a fire that destroys a building in the neighborhood. Later, the mentally handicapped son of a different single mother falls to his death while playing alone on the deck; trouble is always adjacent to the protagonist’s life like this, as though an otherworldly warning, a rebuke saying: in a parallel life, this could be your fire, your flood, your child dead. Tsushima imbues even a Sunday walk in the park with the dark specter of doom, creating a tension so richly and deftly layered onto the ordinary struggle of a single mother that lines of metaphor dissolve leaving only the shadow of dread on every page. Not all is existential and elemental in the life of this woman and her little daughter. The realities of life as a single mother are all too real; her loneliness and isolation and feelings of resentment toward her toddler grow in proportion to her lack of sleep.

Every week, the morning of my one day off plays out the same way. “There’s milk, sliced bread, whatever you want, just help yourself,” I tell her, not opening my eyes. The lull that follows allows me to drop trustingly off again, until my daughter breaks into more tears: I spilled the milk, I wet my pants. The glass broke … And yet I never learn: I go on sleeping in on Sundays. I go for every minute I can get. I continue to meld my body into the bedclothes, believing the tiredness will vanish if I give it just a little longer.

But she gets up, day after day, sometimes cursing her daughter, sometimes keeping her home from school in her exhaustion. She leaves her alone to go drinking at night. In desperation for adult contact, she gets attached to a college boy, the former student of her ex-husband, only to be humiliated and rejected by him as well.

Where is her husband in all this? The narrator is left to speculate. He calls her at work sometimes, angry she cannot give him more attention over the phone, while her boss listens in at their open plan office. Then her husband disappears for months without a word. She hears he has taken up with an older woman; she feels no jealousy. Every person in her small life—her mother, her former friends, even the director of the PTA who sleeps with her one pitiable night—urge her to reconcile with her husband, as though she were the one who left the marriage. Even a bad marriage is better than no marriage at all. The narrator steadfastly rejects this and files for divorce, where she is treated by the double indignity of a mediator who places all responsibility and blame on her, and an ex-husband who cannot even show up to sign divorce papers.

Life marches on. Time in this novel has the feeling of a slow, oppressive progression and stagnation all at once. Broken into twelve chapters and published monthly in the Japanese literary magazine Gunzo from 1978- 1979, Territory of Light chronicles the first year of Mrs. Fujino’s and her daughter ’s life on their own. This translation, by the lapidary Geraldine Harcourt, has the compression of poetry, the crackle of hyperrealism and the gloaming tension of a winter nap in late afternoon. In the end, the narrator decides to leave the top floor apartment that was her cocoon into independence. This setting, once so full of promise, looks different now, its “reddish light so bright it was almost suffocating.” She moves with her daughter to a more ordinary residential building with much less light, but more hospitable to children. No more vacancies hovering just below the surface; this new home comes with a cranky downstairs neighbor, a middle-aged woman who, the old tenants warn, yells at them through the walls. The narrator is undaunted. There will be new troubles, and new opportunities, as well. A feeling of hope and triumph can radiate from nowhere special.

Domenica Ruta is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir With or Without You, a darkly hilarious mother-daughter story and a chronicle of a misfit nineties youth. Her most recent book is Last Day: A Novel. She lives in New York City.

ICYMI: Photography Documenting Activism Images by Ellen Shub and Commentary by Ellen Feldman

Flo Kennedy at BWS Rally

How is it that so many activists who are bound to the struggles and protests of an age remain so damned optimistic? It wasn’t I who wanted to start this photo essay’s comment with Rich’s image of hope amid darkness; it was Ellen Shub, a photojournalist who has been documenting social justice activism in America since the 1970s.

Shub was “initially drawn to covering events around reproductive rights, the battered-women shelter movement, and around violence against women.” But her work expanded to cover many of the social movements of our time. From anti-apartheid to anti-nuclear actions, from civil rights to climate change demonstrations: Shub was there.

 

An award-winning and widely-published photojournalist, particularly on women’s issues, Shub is both social activist and artist. “My artistic goal is to create images that capture the emotional power and intimacy of the moment and their historic significance,” explains Shub. And she succeeds: her work has appeared in newspapers, films, books, and journals about feminism (including WRB, 2017, and Our Bodies Ourselves); is housed in museum collections; and has been widely exhibited. She is currently seeking a permanent home for this tremendous body of work documenting “people who have sought through their actions to create change, improve the human condition, and transform the course of history.” The spirit of hope remains at the heart of her enterprise: “I have always believed that a more equitable, peaceful, just, and sustainable world is possible, and that photographs can help engage and move people to make this possibility a reality.” To see the range of Ellen Shub’s work, visit https://ellenshub.photoshelter.com

Ellen Feldman, WRB’s photography editor, is a photographer, curator, and book artist. Her most recent publication is We Who March: Photographs and Reflections on the Women’s March, January 21, 2017. Websites: www.ellenfeldman.net and www.WeWhoMarch.org 

Black Lives Matter SupportersProtester with AH Sign

 

Scanctuary City SupportersWomens March DC 2017

All We Know of Pleasure: Poetic Erotica by Women Edited by Enid Shomer
Durham, NC; Blair/Carolina Wren Press, 2018, 224 pp., $17.95, paperback
Reviewed by Brook J. Sadler

Sex sells. This truism is evidenced in ubiquitous advertising, popular media, and the insidious leviathan that is pornography. Yet the more “open” we become about sex, the more banal and predictable seem to be the dominant images of it. Sex and sexuality are reduced to an almost vivisectional display of bodies and body parts that would appear perverse if we weren’t so thoroughly acculturated to it. The intensity of sexual experience is reduced to physical grappling, akin to an extreme sport or a cardio workout. Sexual relationship is reduced to a caricature of conquest, resistance, and submission. The proliferation of sexual imagery objectifies both men and women—addressing bodies as things available for manipulation, not persons who are the subjects of experience. The sexual imagery we as a culture produce and consume is largely rote and unimaginative, following phallocentric scripts that enlist and reinforce masculinist assumptions about power and pleasure. Thus, at the same time that we are saturated with representations of sex, we are increasingly impoverished by these images, deprived of the genuinely erotic.

In this cultural context, a book of erotic poems appears as an act of protest, an attempt to reclaim the sensual, mysterious, and deeply human experience of sex. A book of erotic poems by women, coming at a time when female sexual autonomy is publicly represented largely by women’s speaking out against sexual harassment and assault, amplifies the implicit protest: Women’s voices can not only resist sexual domination but redirect us toward a life-affirming view of sexuality. In the introduction to her new anthology All We Know of Pleasure: Poetic Erotica by Women, Enid Shomer makes only the briefest mention of a political point, noting that the women’s movement has made possible a “rising tide of erotic literature” by women. With the political context laying low, Shomer expresses the hope that the book may be a “monument to the primal power of sex.”

The monument Shomer has assembled is constructed of 114 poems by 70 poets. There is not a dud among them. If the glossy images and repetitive video tropes of commercialized sex have made it into something vulgar or dull, here the evocative, inventive power of words is made clear: In these poems, most of which are fewer than 30 lines, the erotic comes to life in simple typeface. Shomer’s collection exemplifies her stated view of poetry’s ability to both “celebrate” and “solemnify” significant events. These are poems that enliven the mind and spirit, arouse the senses, and honor the emotional complexity of the erotic. I don’t know if poets make better lovers (I doubt it), but reading this little book might make you wonder, if not about the erotic abilities of poets, then about the connection between linguistic expression and erotic experience.

The leading poem of the book insists upon this connection: A woman reading “licks her finger, little flick / of tongue and fingertip” to turn the page, and in this moment, an erotic possibility surges. She feels a syllable “bobbing on the tongue,” and her attention is turned from the page to fantasy and (presumably) masturbation as she “lays aside her book.” There, the poem ends, inviting its reader to follow the poet’s subject into the private moment that lies beyond the final line (Kathleen Flenniken, “A Woman Reading”). Shomer could not have made a smarter choice to open the collection; here, language is both physical—on the page, in the mouth—and mental, a concurrence of literal and imaginative meanings. As is the erotic.

The variety of meanings that comprise the erotic experience of women is loosely organized by Shomer into three sections. In the “The Discovery of Sex,” we become privy to girlish experimentation, adolescent curiosity and risk-taking, and adult delight in the joy, beauty, and power of pleasure and of possessing a female body. “Discovery” addresses both the individual experience of first sexual encounters and the deepening realizations of the value and potency of sexual relationships. Elizabeth Alexander ’s “At Seventeen” captures youthful lust: “I want to do it, want to snort and root / and forage in your skin and apertures.”

Sharon Olds observes “his face cocked / back as if in terror”— the reality of male orgasm coming as something of a shock in her “First Sex.” This section closes, suitably, with Jane Hirshfield’s discovery that when the conversation and wine have drained off, what is left is the “sediment dark / at bottom between us, desire” (“Desire”). The second section, “The Ordinary Day Begins,” places the erotic in the context of other daily concerns, domestic life, and long-term relationships. In this group of poems, sex is a familiar experience, though it still has the power to startle, uproot, unsettle. In Molly Peacock’s “The Purr,” arousal is a “hum / in me, the sound something numb come alive makes.” It is a “mysterious thrum // that science can’t yet explain.” That sex has a power which exceeds explanation is a recurrent theme. The exorbitant significance of sex as an event is highlighted by Lorna Dee Cervantes’s “The Best Seven Minutes of My Life,” where “all the ways to live and love” spill forth “in seven / minutes of wonder, and wounding, or less,” proving that sex, like poetry, can be a relatively short form, but nonetheless potent.

Buried in the ordinariness of life, the erotic sends up its surprising shoots: “Sometimes my desire scares me,” writes Stacie Cassarino from the kitchen (“In the Kitchen”). And Amy Gerstler playfully observes, “When we fuck, stars don’t peer down: they can’t. / We fornicate indoors, under roofs, under wraps.” Great sex can take place without a romantic view of the stars, on any number of “couches, cots, and benches” (“Housebound”). The erotic is clearly capable of infiltrating quotidian spaces, as when Dorianne Laux describes a “fullthroated,” orgasmic scream while having sex “on the floor of your office, the dirty carpet / under my back” (“2AM”). Erotic energy cannot be contained but persists even in the most un-sensuous of locations, amid the most stultifying routines.

In the book’s third section, “When This Old Body,” there are poems that address aging, as one might expect. For example, Ellen Bass marvels at the public and passionate kisses of a middle-aged woman in “Gate C22.” But more than reflections on the aging body, these poems coalesce because of a deeper resonance; they share an earned wisdom. Maya Angelou acknowledges the magnetism of the female body with pride in her “Phenomenal Woman,” who, just by walking into a room, makes the “The fellows stand or / Fall down on their knees.” In a forceful womanist poem, Lucille Clifton rejoices in her “big hips,” her “mighty hips” (“homage to my hips”). Katherine Riegel owns up to caring “less/and less about appropriate and more and more / about wanting, about moans and sighs” (“To Endings”). In her “After Love,” Maxine Kumin sharply observes that sex is a temporary reprieve: “Afterwards, the compromise.”

In truth, the range of erotic experience, observation, and wisdom traversed by the poems in this collection is so great that it seems a disservice to attempt to sample it. But it may help to summarize it. The key word in Shomer’s title is “know.” What is it that women poets know about the erotic? They know that erotic experience is a kind of absorption: the self is absorbed in its body, in the body of the other, in the present moment, and the lovers are absorbed into the world. This absorption requires a heightened awareness, focused attention, and a fundamental openness, a willingness to live “with reckless plenitude,” as Stacie Cassarino says (“Summer Solstice”). They know, too, that the erotic involves an unscripted, yet intelligible form of abandon. Sex is primeval; it is animal; it is instinctual; its pleasures are pleasures of the flesh. Animal imagery abounds in these pages. Barbara Goldberg clinches the point: “Anima, animus, we / descend into our evolutionary niche, / wild, demonic, from the bliss of it” (“Capitulation”). Yet we are human animals, and our erotic abandonment must take a human form; hence, its fundamental intelligibility, its aptness for linguistic representation.

Frequently, these poems summon the words “think,” “know,” and even “truth,” direct testament to the essential link between human sexuality and knowledge. Importantly, among the things that women know from erotic experience is men, as Alice Friman makes clear: “Husband, I tell you, there will be no end / to my knowing” (“Watching You in the Mirror”). The claim is expansive and the tone ominous, as women’s knowledge has always been perceived as a threat. There are additional revelations, surprising for their candor. Molly Peacock asks in her title “Have You Ever Faked an Orgasm?” and replies in the first line, “When I get nervous, it’s so hard not to.” The subsequent lines unfold with a lyric acuity to be savored. “The Sad Truth” of Ellen Bass’s poem is that though her lover is a woman, she sometimes misses a penis: “I miss / feeling it nudge me from behind in the night, / poking in between my legs. And the way it goes / out ahead, an envoy, blatant and exposed / on the open plain.”

Women know that moral ambiguity often accompanies the erotic. In “Attraction,” one of Shomer’s own poems, a woman knowingly succumbs to a seduction: “I put away objections / as quietly as quilts.” And in “Navy,” Barbara O’Dair walks a tenuous line between self-loathing and slut-shame, and defiant pride. She glories, “He jackknifed me over the bathtub faucet, / Fucked me four times that morning, / Fat and beating, like a fish.” Female desire should never be reduced to simple submission nor to any overly prettified, sentimental, or romanticized notions.

Though ambivalence and ambiguity surface in several poems, other more troubling aspects of female sexual experience are not fully represented. Few (if any) poems confront the real dangers of sex faced so often by women—the possibility that physical intimacy will lead to rape, assault, male aggression, social stigma, physical pain, unwanted pregnancy, or disease. Had such issues been included, the monument Shomer has constructed would have been very different—less celebratory, more documentary. Although we need poems like this—Cynthia Huntington’s complex poem about abortion, “Shot Up in the Sexual Revolution: The True Adventures of Suzy Creamcheese,” comes to mind— the decision to exclude them allows the book to enact a fully positive embrace of women’s sexual desire, a much-needed outlook. One of the things that makes reading this book such a pleasure is the way it functions as an antidote to the omnipresent news of misogyny and the bleak picture of the ways sex so often endangers women in our patriarchal culture.

All We Know of Pleasure demonstrates that we need language to disclose the erotic. The act of looking at bodies and their parts remains brute until it is transformed by the language of desire, sharpened by metaphor, held close by narrative, articulated from the perspective of real, feeling persons. Thus, as Deirdre Pope suggests in her “Desire,” it is not necessarily an anti-feminist act to focus on the parts of the body, to delight in their separateness: “clit // breasts // lips.” So often in these pages, bodies and genitals are described with a poetic appreciation that invites us to perceive in new ways our own experience of bodies as sites of meaning. Peacock speaks of “your scrotum / hung like an oriole’s nest,” imbuing the sexual encounter with a memorable tenderness and particularity (“The Purr”). When Bass writes of her lover, “I cherish / her sex—the puffy lips of the vulva / like ripe apricot halves,” the image communicates both the sweetness of the fruit and her loving regard (“The Sad Truth”). Even when the body is made analogous to the inanimate, the intrinsic subjectivity and individuality of persons and their bodies is never lost. The quality of the female gaze is displayed as agential and humanizing.

All We Know of Pleasure not only illuminates the need for intelligent erotica and for female-made representations of it, it also demonstrates how much we need the erotic, and all the subtle and vital freedom, joy, and togetherness it can deliver. In a culture overrun with the trivial and dehumanizing, Shomer has made a book that feels necessary.

Brook J. Sadler, Ph.D. is a professor of philosophy and a poet, teaching in the Department of Humanities and Cultural Studies at the University of South Florida. Her writing appears in numerous academic books and journals, literary periodicals, and at the Enid Shomer Ms. magazine blog.

Brute By Emily Skaja
Minneapolis, MN; Graywolf, 2019, 72 pp., $16.00, paperback
Reviewed by Emily Luan

Brute is a book of exits. Of maps and doors, openings, roads, and passageways; of holes—holes in the sky, the gloved hand of a man, “ship sails / holey with mothbite,” permanent marker on a wall that reads “UNFUCK YOUR HOLE LIFE.” As the speaker navigates the landscape of trauma that follows an abusive relationship, she seeks the negative space of loss and leaving in order to understand how she too can depart from the past that haunts her. In the journey of this debut poetry collection, Emily Skaja renders the experience of abuse as cyclical, with edges rounded and closed. So, she asks, what becomes of us if we are left? Who do we mourn? How do we run from the enclosure? Skaja allows us, generously, to see a path—not out, but upward.

Skaja, the recipient of the 2018 Walt Whitman Award, is a doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati, as well as the associate poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review. While we learn in the first poem, “My History As,” that the history of this collection is set in a house in South Philly, city streets quickly fall away to wilderness. These poems seem located in the woods, by a river, or in the body of a bird. The “narrow house,” we imagine, is the only manmade structure for miles, and the birds— omnipresent from beginning to end—the only sounds. The natural landscape positions the poems in a psychological space of trauma rather than in the literal situation of abuse or, one could say, it positions the poems in the psychological space within the situation of abuse. The speaker is isolated among the trees, who are her only witnesses, and the birds circle above in a maddening symbol of purgatory. In the woods, the line between the fantasy of escape and comfort in the natural world dissolves, just as the speaker contemplates the blurred love and hurt of living with her abuser. “It was a house I was always / walking back to” Skaja writes, “I wanted the bruise / & the voice that was sorry.”

The landscape of Brute places the narrative of the collection not only outside of physical space but outside of time. The events warp into the intimate vacuum of pain, which the speaker holds like a bird and slowly turns in her hands. For one, we can read time in the book as the familiar long dark tunnel we stumble through, looking for light in incessant darkness. But we also see the speaker ’s preoccupation with the idea and fear of stagnancy, where time stills. In “March is March” Skaja writes, “I force myself to take time like a pill that stops my pulse / but just for a minute. Time collects around 4:30, refusing to move.” The speaker goes for “long walks in a circle,” unable to move forward or out of the house that contains her. “When he leaves I stop / washing the cups,” she says—a terrifying fact, as it deems forward movement impossible or unlikely in the aftermath of being left. She must leave him to move forward, but he becomes a kind of cog that keeps her life turning. We filter through this everturning hourglass with her. We begin to wonder— what becomes of us if we are left?

There’s also a move to “separate / The Time Before from The Time Now,” to understand how one begins in empowered girlhood—“where is that witch girl / unafraid of anything”—to a present tense of diminishment and loss. To answer this question, Skaja speaks to various female figures to trace a map of hurt through history. In “Dear Ruth,” she writes, “Ruth, you are the holy thing I look to… Help me understand, help me reverse / the pilgrims’ stories.” We begin to see the speaker looking upward, trying to bend a pattern of holes into a kind of holiness. The speaker looks for girl saints, “girl tribes of the hinterland,” finds a mirror in Julian of Norwich, Penelope, Pièta, Eurydice, Eve, even Carly Simon. And then Skaja places herself in this lineage. “Emily as grave pillar as salt-lick” she writes in “I Have Read the Whole Moon,” and in “Indictment” and “Dear Emily” we find epistolary poems to the self. These letters and allusions convey sorrow in recognizing the patterning of the plight of women, but we also see Skaja’s attempt to rewrite the female mythic landscape, to resist and reverse the narratives passed down to us.

The compulsive mining of this history of wronged women is rooted in a disturbing question, one that rings throughout the collection: If we as women keep finding ourselves here, buried, is it our fault? And. will we ever get out? In “Elegy with Sympathy,” we see the height of this inquiry:

I learned early that the flood was a sentence. An earned blight. There isn’t going to be a eulogy for this. No hymn songs. No innocent dirt. For all the changeling girls who couldn’t pull the splinters out, whose wings did not form. Is it a system—if the water wants to drown us—is it? If I say it’s the water’s fault?

Here, the flood that marks the line between before and aftermath is the inevitable conclusion, is the wave that erases holiness from the girl. The biblical allusion doubles as a question about the speaker’s suffering—whether or not it is earned, or if that’s just the story taught to women. We see how a man’s manipulation and violence can turn a woman’s distrust inwards. We watch the speaker indict herself again and again. We see how honestly she asks “Is it a system—is it?” and that honesty is deeply painful to read. In “[For Days I Was Silent]” Skaja writes, “Tell me— / At what point could I have been trusted— / Not to let him into the house.”

But through this questioning runs a clear retrospective voice that tells of the real emotional work that has been done to, as Skaja writes about Brute, “create a new person out of the ashes of the old one.” Sometimes the voice is angry, ringing from the fire, insistent on reclaiming what was taken from her. Other times the work shows through in Skaja’s willingness to stay in complication, to say plainly “I can’t leave out / how I hit that man in the jaw, / that I wasn’t good at mercy” and to wonder “What is this impulse in me to worship & crucify / anyone who leaves me.” We enact violence to others and to ourselves when we are wounded, a fact difficult to see when we are in the flood. Skaja reminds us of how profoundly human this instinct is.

The role of elegy in the book, too, shows us a progression towards reinvention. Eight elegies run through the collection like a spine, all of which seem to be for a girl who took her life at an early age. They become a counterweight to the speaker’s grief of abuse, a further investigation of what it means for someone to be “gone” or to leave another person, and these poems act as a kind of hymn song for the girls “whose wings did not form” to recognize their suffering. Death also provides a concrete loss to mourn in a way that the ending of an abusive relationship does not (I’m thinking here of Freud’s definition of mourning in his essay “Mourning and Melancholia,” where the grieving over a love object is productive and allows us to move forward from loss). The speaker turns to the “you” of these elegies in a time when she too feels buried, underground, to seek solace and to attempt to ascend. Again, we see the gesture from holes to holiness. And in the penultimate poem of the collection, “Elegy with Rabbits,” we arrive: “I am not buried with you in the winter ground,” she says, “When I look back I see my skin shedding gray & red as it tunnels behind me.”

Feathers and birds appear everywhere in Brute, even in the darkest moments of the text. At times, the image is developed as a metaphor for longing; other times for being hunted. “Help me. On my knees I ask to be turned into a gull,” the speaker says in “Elegy with Feathers.” In another poem, she drops her hands into a sink and “they come up feathered.” But as the repetition intensifies, the refrain becomes an insistence on flight. A harp is made from the wingbone of a vulture; the speaker holds the skull of a vulture to her cheek.

In the last poem, an epistolary to Eurydice, she denounces the predator—“There comes a point when you have to hold the man responsible for what he did. / I have decided it’s degrading to say I let him.” In this moment, speaking into the past, the narrator walks from the cellar and out from the trees. We’ve emerged from the thicket of trauma and are back in our bodies, looking around. The landscape turns from wilderness to reality—trash in the streets, the flood merely a stream in the gutter. It’s not beautiful but it isn’t ugly either. And she doesn’t grow wings; instead, she puts on a coat. Flight doesn’t always mean rising—sometimes it just means going forward.

Emily Luan is a Taiwanese American poet. She is currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at Rutgers University-Newark, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Washington Square Review, PANK, Grist, Epiphany, and elsewhere.

January/February 2019

Jennifer Baumgardner, Women's Review of Books editor in chief, gives a preview of what's in the current issue:

 

 

Detroit by the Numbers The World According to Fannie Davis By Bridgett M. Davis
Reviewed by Shirley Nwangwa

Unity of the Whole Why Religion? By Elaine Pagels
Reviewed by Sushumna Kannan

Never Surrender, Dorothy! The Entire Oeuvre of Dorothy, A Publishing Project
Reviewed By Stacey Lathrop

A Whole World of Mythology Swallowing Mercury By Wioletta Greg; Flights By Olga Tokarczuk
Reviewed by Beth Holmgren

Heart to Heart Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth By Sarah Smarsh
Reviewed by Carole DeSanti

Photography Documenting Activism Images by Ellen Shub and Commentary by Ellen Feldman

Production VS. Reproduction This Woman’s Work By Julie Delporte; Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos By Lucy Knisley
Reviewed by Tahneer Oksman

White Tears White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism By Robin DiAngelo
Reviewed by Haley Riemer

A Fish Still Alive Everything Under By Daisy Johnson
Reviewed by Noelle McManus

Tough Love To Live Here, You Have to Fight: How Women Led Appalachian Movements for Social Justice By Jessica Wilkerson
Review by Barbara Bamberger Scott

The Witness Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive By Stephanie Land
Reviewed by Carol Blair

Magic in the Wind She Would Be King By Wayétu Moore
Reviewed by Amy Watkin

Animal Shelter The Summer of Dead Birds By Ali Liebegott
Reviewed by Laurie Stone

To Serve a Genius Puro Amor By Sandra Cisneros
Reviewed by Noelle McManus

Poetry by Vicki Reitenauer

Listen Up Requiem for a Movement
An essay by Lise Weil

March/April 2019

Jennifer Baumgardner, Women's Review of Books editor in chief, gives a preview of what's in the current issue:

 

 

Erotic Truth, Poetic License All We Know of Pleasure: Poetic Erotica by Women Edited by Enid Shomer
Reviewed by Brook J. Sadler

Gaza Girl A Rebel in Gaza: Behind the Lines of the Arab Spring, One Woman’s Story By Asmaa al-Ghoul and Selim Nassib
Reviewed by Hagar Scher

Being Loud Without Saying Anything Liveblog By Megan Boyle
Reviewed by Laura Winnick

Q&A An Ear for Women: Interview with Megan Marshall
By Joanne B. Mulcahy

Out for Blood The Managed Body: Developing Girls and Menstrual Health in the Global South By Chris Bobel
Reviewed by Karen Houppert

Interview Eavesdropping for a Better World: A Conversation with Mira Jacob
By Tahneer Oksman

Julie Doucet: Frazzled and Frenetic Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet By Julie Doucet
Reviewed by Julie Baumgardner

Bold Lives Matter The Bold World: A Memoir of Family and Transformation By Jodie Patterson
Reviewed by Heather Hewett

What’s New, Pussycat? Milkman: A Novel By Anna Burns
Reviewed by Katherine Ouellette

Poetry By Diana Woodcock and Irene Willis

Stupid, Evil, Queer Last Night in Nuuk By Niviaq Korneliussen
Reviewed by Noelle McManus

Kathryn the Great Labrador By Kathryn Davis; The Silk Road By Kathryn Davis
Reviewed by Katharine Coldiron

Flight Brute By Emily Skaja
Reviewed by Emily Luan

La Hija Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir By Cherríe Moraga
Reviewed by Valerie Morales

Listen Up Was it Good for You?
An essay by Laurie Stone

Women's Review of Books issues are now available for purchase as digital downloads!

The Women's Review of Books receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Mass Cultural Council

 

 

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